Burt Bacharach, Leon Russell, Paul Williams, Neil Sedaka, Carole King and Joe Raposo make up quite an eclectic group of songwriters. What's the common link that unites them? Each composed a song that was recorded by the Carpenters.
During a career that lasted from 1969 to 1983, siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter recorded 30 singles, 10 of which were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. The duo also won three Grammy Awards.
The Oklahoma City Philharmonic will pay tribute to the Carpenters with an upcoming pops concert pair titled “Yesterday Once More.” Guest vocalists Jen Burleigh-Bentz, John Trones, David Lohman and Michelle Carter will join guest conductor Douglas Droste for this evening of musical nostalgia.
A show produced by songwriter and pianist Jim Brickman, “Yesterday Once More” surveys the Carpenters' extensive musical catalog, one that produced such hits as “Close to You,” “We've Only Just Begun,” “Superstar,” “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “For All We Know.”
“I knew most of these songs because my parents played this music when I was growing up,” said Burleigh-Bentz. “Karen had an ability to create such a range of emotions that she put into a song. There aren't many singers out there with those talents.
“When I first heard some of the arrangements used in ‘Yesterday Once More,' I knew I had to be a part of it. If they hadn't had me in mind, I certainly would be vying for a position in this show. This music brought back a lot of memories that I didn't even knew I had.”
Burleigh-Bentz became involved in “Yesterday Once More” through her co-star John Trones, a singer who has worked with Brickman for the past 15 years. The youngest of five children in a musical family, Trones was also smitten with the Carpenters at a young age.
“I remember buying my first Carpenters album and how the close-knit harmonies and the layering of those harmonies made their music so incredibly lush and beautiful,” Trones said. “You could really feel what they were singing about — the despair in ‘Rainy Days and Mondays' for example. It was music that grabbed you because they put their heart and soul into it.”
Clearly, a production that celebrates a musical era that dates back 40 years places a high priority on nostalgia, something that the music of the Carpenters readily evokes. Lush harmonies and poignant lyrics combined to create the duo's trademark sound.
“I think this show brings back memories of an easier, simpler time,” Burleigh-Bentz said. “In putting it together, Jim wanted to be sure it was a blend of the intellectual, the musical and the soulful. If we touch somebody's brain, heart and soul, we've succeeded.
“As performers, we often listen for that moment of silence that occurs between the end of a song and the applause. Audiences want to relish that final note and then you get this wonderful, heartfelt hurrah. You can tell they've really been touched. It's a lovely moment.”
You could really feel what they were singing about — the despair in ‘Rainy Days and Mondays' for example. It was music that grabbed you because they put their heart and soul into it.”